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London’s Science And Technology Sector Is 'Poised For Growth' — And British Land Intends To Help It

1 Triton Square

The science and technology sector is expanding rapidly on a global scale. The pharmaceutical market alone was worth $1.6T at the end of 2023, up $100B from the end of 2022. The green technology and sustainability market is set to grow from $15.3B in 2023 to $19.2B in 2024. A recent report by British Land and Savills suggests that science growth in London alone could add £3.1B a year to the UK economy.

To ensure the UK captures this growth, the real estate sector needs to provide the space innovative companies need to grow, said Michael Wiseman, British Land head of workspace leasing and science and technology. By establishing unique partnerships with science and technology institutions and creating campuses across London, British Land is putting itself in the strongest position possible to meet the sector’s needs. 

“We believe in the UK, in the Golden Triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, and we believe London is poised for growth due to the intersection of science and technology,” Wiseman said. “As a business, we’re well positioned to cater for these organisations, wherever they are in their life cycle.”

Following Bisnow's UK Life Sciences Real Estate Annual Conference, hosted by British Land at 1 Triton Square, we spoke to Wiseman about how British Land is creating the space science and technology organisations need to grow across London. 

Bisnow: What commercial real estate does London and the UK need right now?

Michael Wiseman: The headline data around availability of commercial space in general is massively misleading. There’s a real shortage of good-quality workspace in the right locations. 

There is an even greater shortage of buildings that can provide both labs and office space, and a significant proportion of businesses in this sector need both. There is very little supply of this space for at least the next four years.

This is one reason we were excited about the opportunity presented by 1 Triton Square, which will be ready from summer 2025. We recently announced a joint venture with Royal London Asset Management Property which will accelerate delivery, launching more than 300K SF of best-in-class science and technology space into the market, quickly.

Bisnow: Should the industry focus more on refurbishment?

Wiseman: Where you can refurbish, you should, not only from a carbon perspective but from a cost and time perspective. Not everything can be reused, of course, particularly to create buildings that contain a proportion of labs where factors such as volume are critical. 

Reuse works well at 1 Triton Square, where we refurbished and extended a building we originally built in the 1990s. Originally designed as a trading building, 1 Triton Square has good bones  good floor-to-ceiling heights, flexible floor plates and power resiliency. 

Often, older buildings have tighter floor-to-floor slab heights, which create challenges in refurbishing, as they don't provide the volumes of spaces that occupiers today are looking for. 

One popular misconception, though, is that the debate on refurbishment is binary. A lot of our focus is on how we can reuse key components of an existing structure, saving carbon in doing so, but allowing us to deliver new buildings that meet modern sustainability standards. 100 Liverpool Street, where we retained the structure and then extended and reclad, was a great example of this.  

Bisnow: How do you determine the right mix of spaces to provide in a science and technology building?

Wiseman: British Land is always customer-led, and we’re lucky to have the broadest book of tenants in London. We are constantly evolving what we offer to reflect occupier demands. It’s no different in this sector. Getting the right mix of fitted lab versus enabled space is something we will monitor over time. 

At the moment, of the seven storeys at 1 Triton Square, four will have the capability for laboratory space. We’ll deliver this as a mix of space, some for larger occupiers and the rest to provide smaller, fitted suites. 

It’s important to get the distinction right between larger spaces an occupier might want to fit out and smaller spaces that are ready to go. A lot of demand in London comes from smaller scale-up businesses. Our campus model is ideal for supporting them as they grow. 

The remaining 40% of the building will be office space, and it will be interesting to see how that changes. At the moment, a lot of R&D is AI-driven, which could impact the amount of lab space required in London. This is something we’ll keep a close eye on, because the intersection of science and technology is one factor that makes London so attractive. 

1 Triton Square

Bisnow: You mentioned the Golden Triangle. Do you think London competes well with the life sciences sectors at Oxford and Cambridge?

Wiseman: Global megatrends, such as health and climate security, provide structural tailwinds for growth. The UK has all the ingredients to benefit from this, such as world-class institutions leading the way in discovery. 

The Golden Triangle is the heart of this, but Oxford and Cambridge are fairly limited in how they can grow. London connects it all. As Europe’s capital of technology, it’s where the growth will happen from the collision of science and technology. Here we have the capital and regulatory environment which is needed.

Our recent report with Savills, Accelerating Innovation in London, details the huge potential London has to be a world-leading science and technology growth hub. If we grow London's lab space provision at the same speed as what is projected for New York's science sector, by 2035, there would be 52,000 more people in high-skilled, high-wage employment and £31B a year in additional GVA. This equates to £850M in tax revenue. 

Bisnow: Where in London are life sciences clusters emerging?

Wiseman: There is already a mix of established and emerging clusters across London. The Knowledge Quarter is the heart of Europe. It’s the counterpoint to everything that goes on in the U.S. with established anchors.

Canada Water is an example of an emerging cluster. We launched The Paper Yard last year, which offers modular lab and workspace. CheMastery is based there and will shortly be joined by Prosemino.

London can support many clusters because of public transport that joins them together. You could get from Regent’s Place to Canada Water in about 20 minutes.

The most exciting things happen where different disciplines are in the same place, where there is a cross contamination of ideas, but there’s bound to be specialisms. Often, the first occupier to arrive attracts the next occupier, and so on. People working on similar problems want to be close to each other. 

Bisnow: How are clusters influenced by universities and research institutions?

Wiseman: Clusters are generally close to world-leading institutions and universities. At Canada Water, there’s the challenger university, [The Engineering & Design Institute], a joint venture between Arizona State University, King's College London and UNSW Sydney that focuses on engineering. 

British Land has unique partnerships with institutions, as we want to be a long-term partner for businesses in our clusters. We invest in these relationships. 

We have a memorandum of understanding with [University College London] to support growth in science and technology at Regent’s Place. We will soon be launching a partnership with The Francis Crick Institute to deliver fitted and serviced lab space, which further expands this important ecosystem. It will provide new space for the next generation of commercial companies working in life sciences, health and AI-enabled biotechnology with access to the Crick's infrastructure and expertise.

Bisnow: Overall, does the real estate sector have a role to play in the growth of these industries in the UK?

Wiseman: It’s about delivering the right space for the market. The sector needs to recognise that the traditional way to let space — expecting the occupier to fit it out — doesn’t work for the smaller end of the market, as it is too capital-intensive and slow to access. 

When we look at our portfolio, we see many businesses that have grown through it. We want to provide space for every point on a business’s journey, from startup to international headquarters

This article was produced in collaboration between British Land and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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